The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, March 7, 2021
Good morning, dear People of God! It’s Sunday in Lent! Two more Sundays to go!Sincere condolence is extended to all who have lost loved ones because of Covid-19and a note of gratefulness to all of our essential workers putting themselves at risk.
The following verses are the recommended biblical passages for the 3rd Sundayin Lent. There are two more Sundays in Lent of 2021 until Palm Sunday arrives:
“…and God spoke all these words…’I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…'” (Exodus 20:1-17)
“…the precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart…the commands of theLord are radiant, giving light to the eyes…” (Psalm 19:8)
“…if, then, the light in you is darkness, it is, indeed, a profound darkness…”
([Jesus in] Matthew 6:23b)
“…for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“…Jesus did not need the testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person…” (John 2:25)
“…when it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem…”(John 2:1)
Would you pray with me this morning?
We praise you upon your this day to focus in upon your wisdom, your favor, yourprovision for our lives. Once again we call upon you for that special access into your presence, your mind, and your heart. O, how we need the benediction of your grace for this day. Forgive us all of our trespasses and grant us the peace to know that you have the authority to forgive us, cleanse us, and make us over. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the Scriptures. Thank you for your insights and your grace to carry us through this day, and the days of this week. As we ask blessing for ourselves, we do so in concern for others, those we know and love, those we live and work with, and those who are far afield. We, therefore, ask that we may bring divine hope and assurance to those at risk in life, those who are in pain, and those who need to know they are worthy and loved. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!
“…when it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem…”
There is a direct connection between Jesus going to Jerusalem and the Passover.
The Gospel lesson for today is from the second chapter of John, at the thirteen verse. It appears to me that Jesus is doing, in a way, what we are doing. Jesus is making the journey from Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south. Thisto me is a literal, and as well, a symbolic journey for the Gospel writer. Like theLord Jesus, considering the details of His move and purpose, our place and time in Lent is part of a journey. It is a literal journey and it is a symbolic journey. I’d like to add to that—it’s a Spiritual journey. Are we fully conscious of it?
Being aware or not, it makes a difference. The Lord God is at work in our lives. He is extremely jealous for our “safety” while on the journey, as well as the direction we take. Have you ever thought—as I have: What’s Jesus thinking about me,that is, about where I am in my Lenten journey? Am I so involved in the details ofmy living day by day that I haven’t really focused upon the preparation andparticipation necessary to make Lent significant for me. Indeed! What have I beendoing, thinking, and praying about…that makes Lent what it’s supposed to be?
Jesus knew what He was doing, as detailed by the Gospel writer. And Jesus knowswhat He’s doing now, in our lives. At times, you and I may not know what we’re about, or where our head and heart are at, but Jesus does…not the Jesus of history, my friend, but the Jesus of today…and my destiny…in Him…Jesus, crucified and risen!Yes, the Lord is concerned about US. WHAT’S going on in our heads and hearts?
We’re on a journey in the Season of Lent—leaving behind the comfort of family and friends in “good ol’ Galilee” and heading toward, what—in some way—is destiny and trouble. As Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, used to say, “Good Trouble”! Life isn’t just about doing the pleasant things in life…
As I reflect on the Bible account of Jesus’ life, I sense that His greatest human joy was growing up and “living it up” and teaching in Galilee. The people there were, and are (to this day), much less intense than the people in Jerusalem. Just give me the “good-time” folks of Tiberius, Cana, Nazareth, Capernaum and Magdala. It must’ve been easier for Jesus to “breathe” in Galilee than to put up with all the arrogance of the “Big Whigs” in Jerusalem. Jesus was “wise” to the graft, thehypocrisy, the appearance of genuine spirituality, and the cruel religious andpolitical domination of those in control. But, to Jerusalem, He needed to go… Even for the Son of God, it wasn’t just about what things in life give pleasure and happiness…it’s about completion…fulfilling one’s destiny to completethe task…the underlying reason we were conceived and born.
You and I have purpose in being here. We have a destiny.The Season of Lent is meant to place our focus upon that destiny.We take a sufficient amount of time to enjoy life as Jesus certainly did, but our livesare heading toward an ultimate consummation, our purpose in being here, our divinedestiny, despite the pleasures of life that God encourages us to take advantage of,but not make the recreational aspects of life the final human summation of whatwe are ultimately about…our reason for being here on earth.Do you really believe you are here on earth merely to be conceived, be born, grow up, graduate, get married, have children, work hard, mellow in life, get old, and die?I remember Peggy Lee singing some years back, “Is that all there is?”Do you really believe that’s all there is to life?It is the purpose of the Season of Lent to discern that significant differencebetween “summation” in life and “consummation”…no matter what our calling in terms of work or profession…no matter what our status in society…no matter what others may think of us…no matter how much money, or lack thereof…
…GOD HAS A UNIQUE AND POWERFUL PURPOSE FOR EACH PERSON…
[you and I can limit the greatness, the power, and the majesty of that divine destiny]
When we go back to John 2:11-12, we read: “…what Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him…” That’s verse 11. “…After this He went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples. There they stayed for a few days…” That’s verse 12. Get that!
…Jesus just hangin’ out with the folks…
The account from Cana indicates His first miracle. The miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee was not an essential act of His ministry on earth, but…get this… Mary, His mother, asked, and besides, Jesus wanted everybody to fully enjoy the wedding reception and talk about it for years to come. (What a guy! What a Savior!)Jesus wasn’t trying to convince his Galilean friends of His greatness and power. One could say that Jesus was honoring His mother’s request…and yet…Jesusdidn’t want people to be confused about what His “bottom-line purpose” in life and therefore He encouraged everybody to remain silent about His miracles.
According to verse twelve, Jesus’ time spent in Capernaum was not hurried.
Jesus set ample time aside to be with His mother…and note this…His brothers…that is…as well as His disciples. [Please note here that Jesus had real brothers!] They must have had a good time together. It gave Him the encouragement He needed to fulfill His ultimate task, the one ordained for Him before the creation of the world. It also gave family and followers “something to hold onto” after theastonishing events of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension that would follow…
The Lord Jesus would encourage each of us to enjoy our lives, and yet, not overdo it, getting swept away in the pleasures of life. He would encourage us to have good, faithful friends, and share “the good life” together. I keep thinking about John the Baptist’s confusion regarding Jesus. Was He really the Messiah?(Matthew 11:2) He was supposed to be, but, He just seemed to enjoy the goodthings of life much too much, according to John. Many Christians I know think oneneeds to “gut it out” in life, and not enjoy the simple pleasures, if one expects tobe a genuine believer…that was probably where John the Baptist was at….but Jesus actually provided a much more ideal notion of what it means to be God’sservant. Enjoy life, but know you have a destiny in God, and follow through.
The finest kind of evangelism I know of—is for the believer involved to be fully engaged in enjoying life and, if not “the life of the party”, a full-fledged participant.But for those sticking around long enough to observe, that same believer is always there present to comfort, to assist, and to help those who are grieving or hurting.
So, what are some of the things you and I can do to get fully into Lent…
The first thing is toDEVELOP INSIGHT
The twentieth chapter of Exodus is devoted to the Ten Commandments, but what precedes the Ten Commandments is worthy of being called, “AS IMPORTANT” asthe Commandments themselves. We read in Exodus 20:2…
“…I AM the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…”
For decades I thought this was simply an introduction to the Ten Commandments.Actually, if it weren’t for the first six words written, we would be put in great peril attempting to be good enough to make “the cut”, that is, to be righteous enough toqualify for God’s approval, good enough to become part of God’s royal family, and tolive our lives in the sure confidence of knowing that we are in the Lord’s good graces.
God knows, and we know, that we live in a broken world. We are less than perfect,and we fall short of the glory of God in Christ Jesus. Since the fall of mankind, Godhas understood this, and now we know. God is not going to shut us out from Hispresence, because we aren’t perfect. We’re part of His family, even though, we fallshort (archery term: “sin”, to fall short of the bulls-eye) in terms of meeting the justrequirements of the law. No wonder so many smart people become Christians.
WE ARE COVERED
Whether or not we’re seemingly a little more perfect than most other human beings, the focus is upon ourselves… selfishness. Whether or not we are seemingly less perfect than most other human beings, the focus is upon ourselves… another strange sort of selfishness.
The superlative message of Lent…
Let go of the negative things of life…and live positively in Jesus.
Sin and our negative, tragic past are obliterated by the power of the Cross.
The Lord, in Exodus 20:2, is not saying…”Look, if you keep these Commandments,then, I will be your God, you can become an integral part of my family, and enjoy thebenefits of full life and Eternal Life…”
God is saying, “I AM the Lord…” You are part of my blessed family when your trustis in me, rather than yourself. You are included, and as best you can, being human,follow these Commandments, these divine guidelines, in order that you may be blessed and in order that others may be blessed in sharing this life with you!
Without this insight, what was meant to be a blessing, The Ten Commandments become a curse for us…because we cannot fully live up to the requirements of God’s law. The Ten Commandments give us gooddirection in terms of blessings when we give our very best…
When we fall short, we don’t hide from God or other human beings.We turn to God. We ask forgiveness. We have God’s guaranteeof unconditional forgiveness. We carry on in joy to live our lives to the fullest.
The Second Thing is toMAKE IT PERSONAL
Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3b writes, “…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ exceptby the Holy Spirit…” When I was a boy, I asked my Dad why Christian men and women in our home congregation would heard the words of Scripture and the pastor preaching, and yet, not seem to follow through in word and deed. Dadsimply said, “I don’t know. The Pastor certainly preached well this past Sunday.”
We need to call upon the Holy Spirit to shore up our faith lives. Rather than trying,and trying again, to make it good on your own…call upon the Holy Spirit to help youin doing “the needful” for others and getting things done you’d like to do for the Lord.
Saint Paul is right. Jesus cannot be Lord of your life or mine, unless we involve theHoly Spirit. At that point, everything falls into place…you get the work you proposeto do—done…you start the ministry at church you’ve been thinking about and yourefforts are a success…you finally overcome the irritation you feel and anger you have toward neighbors and fellow members and you become best of friends.
Jesus been letting you down? Not really. God the Father and the Lord Jesus have been occupying the front seat of your automobile and the Holy Spirit has been in the back seat. You need to bring the Holy Spirit up front. When you call upon the Holy Spirit to cause personal transformation to take placea flickering flame will become a blazing fire in your life which cannot be quenched.
“Lord, thanks to the Holy Spirit, I am now ready to receive Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior in a way I haven’t done before. I know that Jesus died on the cross of Calvary for my sins. I know that He arose on the third day. I know that eternal life is mine through trusting in Jesus for this day, and for eternity, rather than trustingin good deeds done. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for eternal life.I commend my life and my work into your hands for this hour and eternity. Amen.”
The third thing is toDENY YOURSELF (FASTING)
From my past years, I know that Christians have denied themselves chocolate, the movies, popcorn, television, ice cream, comic books, and things like that.I would like to encourage you in Lent of 2021 to fast from…negative thinking in general…doubts about the love of God for you…being critical of others…getting “down” on yourself…allowing yourself to get upset when little unpleasant things happen…and thinking that when serious stuff comes your way—you and God can’t handle it. I get the idea that, if you “fast” in this matter, you’ll lookforward to Lent every single year.
Let’s hope, at least, that we can gather for the Easter Sunrise Service on top of Sweeney Ridge at the SFB Discovery Site. Let’s hope that we can all worship in church on Easter morning. In the meantime, as we learn to more effectively thrive in God’s amazing grace one day at a time, the divine spirit of Lent becomes more attractive to us…as we ready ourselves for “real” Easter.